The American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA), Rockville, Md, has voiced strong support for the Everyone Deserves Unconditional Access to Education (EDUCATE) Act, a measure recently introduced by Rep Chris Van Hollen (D-Md).

The bill would require increased funding for the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that would bring the law to a full funding level over a 6-year period. Currently, IDEA is funded at less than half its authorized amount.

In a statement released by ASHA, its President Sue Hale said once stimulus funds are used up, school districts may have to make deep and severe cuts in services if the economy doesn’t make a dramatic comeback before the 2010-2011 school year.

When Congress authorized the precursor to IDEA in 1975 there was an expectation that the federal government would help state and local educators meet specific civil rights and equal access requirements established under law. While those services and mandates have been required for decades, the federal share of IDEA funding has never exceeded 20%; currently, it hovers around 18%, says the statement.

A net decline in state and local special education expenditures has forced many school districts to back-fill existing budget gaps with American Recovery and Reinvestment (ARRA) funds. However, local districts have provided little or no new services with ARRA funds, says ASHA.

ASHA’s 53,000 school-based members work daily with millions of children with speech, language, and/or hearing impairments. Combined these students make up one-third of all students with disabilities. The other two-thirds of students with disabilities often have secondary and tertiary speech, language, or hearing issues, says the statement.

[Source: ASHA]